Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Community Development

Cleaner Energy and Health: Household, Local and Global Benefits

Author(s):

March 2014

Community Development Investment Review

Energy is central to the very service systems that sustain human life and well-being such as transportation, buildings, materials, infrastructure, food, hygiene, thermal comfort, communications, and lighting. But how we choose to supply energy can also have negative consequences such as water scarcity, air pollution, and extreme weather related events. When we burn fossil fuels to produce energy, for example, greenhouse gas emissions trap heat in the lower atmosphere and affect the quality of environmental services, the global climate, and our health. This year in the United States alone, more than 10,000 people will die from complications connected to air pollution. And we must not forget that energy goes hand in glove with another life-sustaining resource—water. Water is essential to operating power plants. When power plants produce more energy, they use more water and compete for this finite resource with other industries in drought-prone areas. The result is higher costs of water and energy.

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